Leaked report shows ‘dozens of errors’ at Derby training provider

Stricken Derby training provider 3aaa was handed a £7m apprenticeships contract in 2016 – despite an investigation which found multiple funding and success rate “overclaims”, according to reports.

FE Week says that 3aaa was subject to an investigation by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in 2016, which it says saw the company forced to pay back a “substantial” six-figure sum.

The report of the investigation has been leaked to FE Week, which says that auditing firm KPMG was appointed following claims by a whistleblower about non-compliance with funding rules.

The investigation was named ‘Project Vanilla’, was treated with “high confidentiality”.

FE Week’s whistleblower’s claims outline a number of breaches in protocol including wrong start dates resulting in failure to reach minimum duration, incorrect use of “break in learning” status which inflated success rates and apprentices who went long periods without learning activity.

The investigation also found dozens of “errors which support the allegations or which have an impact on funding of success rates”.

3aaa’s funding was halted during the investigation, says FE Week, but started again when it was over. Then, it says, the company received a £7m increase to its in-year allocation.

A spokesperson for 3aaa told FE Week that the provider could not comment on the report, due to confidentiality agreements.

The DfE said: “We do not comment on any investigations, ongoing or otherwise.”

The revelations come a week after the co-founders of Derby training firm 3aaa resigned after a government investigation into the company.

Peter Marples and Di McEvoy-Robinson, the company’s chief executive and director respectively, have resigned from their posts.

3aaa’s allocation for apprenticeships was at almost £31m by the end of 2017/18, up from £14.5m at the start of the academic year.

The company offers apprenticeships in IT, software, digital marketing, accountancy, financial services, business administration, customer service and management.